Sherman Dorn, a Florida professor who always writes thoughtful posts, pushed back on my post, If It Quacks Like A Duck — Thoughts On The “Parent Trigger.” In his response, he writes that my same arguments could be used to oppose letting workers vote for a union through the “card check” process. In that situation, if a majority of workers at a business sign a card saying they want to be represented by a union, then the union automatically becomes recognized.
Here’s the comment I left on his blog (I have also made some minor changes in this version, including adding a link):
I always appreciate a good critique because it pushes my thinking, as your posts often do.
I, too, support card check for labor organizing. There are some very important differences, though, between a union organizing workers in a private company and billionaires funding an effort to privatize a public institution.
One, the reasoning behind the card check is the legitimate concern and fear, shown in thousands of instances over the years, that companies will intimidate workers who are organizing and fire them and often blacklist them so they cannot find similar work elsewhere. Yes, there have been as yet unproved charges that one teacher at the Compton school made one critical comment to one student about his parent’s role in the petition drive. But does anyone seriously think that if teachers disagree with something a parent is doing that they are going to take it out on their student? Or let it affect how they interact with that child’s parent on student-related issues? If, in the extraordinarily rare instance that happens, it is hard to imagine that there would not be swift and serious consequences for the guilty teacher. The child will certainly not be expelled from school and blacklisted from entering others.
Two, unions are funded by member dues and are built and sustained over the long term by them, as are local religious congregations, block clubs and ethnic organizations (groups, by the way, whom are often very supportive of union organizing efforts). That is not the case in billionaire groups that parachute into local communities to start charters who then will then transfer staff to go start new charters elsewhere.
Three, just the argument that a parent trigger petition drive is somehow related to the card check issue can buy-into the dangerous belief that schools are just like businesses and should be treated as such. Public schools are not businesses, public schools should not be run like businesses, and public schools should not primarily be characterized through the lens of business practices (though, there are obviously some positive practices worth incorporating). Going down this kind of road can lead to many other unfortunate comparisons such as schools needing to make more decisions in the name of “efficiency,” as do businesses or that it’s okay for schools — as many charters do already — to discourage students they do not want to serve from attending.
Petition drives organized by charter groups that divide parents from teachers and parents from other parents are not the way to improve our schools. Encouraging schools and parents to emphasize home visits, schools working with families on community problems affecting both them and the school, and face-to-face cooperation are some of the better ways to make that improvement happen.